You Don’t Trail Blaze as a Parent

Some more thoughts on parenting and life today. Up this time? All the time I’ve been a parent, I’ve viewed myself as a sort of guide who can show my kids the ropes. I’ve lived more than 42 years, after all. It’s easy to think that I’ve encountered pretty much any situation they might come across, and so as a parent my job would be to accompany them along that trip to adulthood, pointing out all the pitfalls I’d found along the way. I’d already been through all that rough ground and blazed a trail for my kids. All they’d need to do is follow in my footsteps.

But now that I’ve been parenting for a while (and have not one but two teenagers), I’ve come to realize more and more that the hard-earned path I created for myself that I was so proud of all these years isn’t really worth a whole lot to my children. It’s not because they want to ignore it or refuse to listen to me, but it’s because the path I made is now over 25 years out of date. The terrain has changed since then. There are different threats. Other pitfalls. My kids are making their way through unknown jungle, and while I can possibly help them by suggesting things that worked for my way back when, those suggestions might or might not be of any real value.

Here I’ve been thinking all this time that I had made this helpful map with tons of annotations and warning marks, and now that my kids are old enough to really use it, I’ve discovered the map’s out of date and of an entirely different mountain. So the more I try to insist that my kids take this switchback or cross the river at that point, the more they’re probably going to struggle. Those switchbacks and river crossings might have worked well for me, but they don’t go to the same place anymore, and they might well end up being deadends.

At the same time, I’ve learned that my kids aren’t in this completely alone. At least the younger ones aren’t. We’re in this as a family. Tomas (the oldest child) ends up encountering a lot of things for the first time that Denisa and I as parents just haven’t come across. Daniela (coming next) can and has benefitted from her parents having already come across some of those new obstacles that Tomas encountered. So in many ways, parents can’t trail blaze, but older siblings can. Not completely, but at least enough to give everyone a general idea of some of the latest things to watch out for along the way.

There are other maps out there to consult. Other parents who might have already faced some of this new terrain with their children. Other children who have reached the latest mountaintop. But it’s important to remember that for all of the explorers out there, there’s an infinite number of paths and destinations, and what may be complete paradise for one person might be boring to another.

Sometimes I wish everything were as simple as I assumed it would be when I didn’t know anything about what I was talking about. Maybe one day I’ll figure out that’s pretty much never the case . . .


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